Part of the Bell Science series. The story of the science of language and linguistics centered around plot to destroy the alphabet and all language. Features Dr. Frank Baxter and the brilliant Hans Conried.
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Part of the legendary Bell Science series, this film covers the science of linguistics, and show it is more than simply grammar. Overall, a decent introduction to the topic with some fun bits, but also some parts are now very dated.
Dr. Frank Baxter (MiSTies would know him as the professor that did the introduction to the 1956 turkey "The Mole People") mainly guide a little girl who becomes frustrated at her grammar homework. She falls asleep, and she meets Carroll's Mad Hatter (Hans Conreid) and the Jabberwocky. The Mad Hatter wants to destroy the alphabet because it is a prison. Baxter halts this scheme as he talks about how scientists breakup language into phonemes and descriptive grammar. Two animation sequences are done by Friz Frieling, and the entire production was overseen by Warner Bros.
Because of the length, this film was originally broken into two reels, and the second reel on this print is clearly the one in better shape. The first reel suffers a persistent scratch down the middle and many missing frames at the end of the reel. The second reel has better color, but has some curiously repeating sections early on.
As for the information, there has been some definite advances in understanding of linguistics since the film was made. The mention of "primitive" cultures would make modern anthropologists cringe (though, it does rightly mention there are no primitive languages). Also, there has been a lot of research in teaching great apes sign language since this film was made, which call into question some of the conclusions the film makes in that area.
Still, the film is an entertaining 50 minutes while providing some interesting information about the structure and nature of language.
November 27, 2006 Subject:
the Bell Science Films Legacy
How many of us children from the "baby boomer" era can remember these 8 or so series from the Bell System (MaBell) film library series. Being of grade school age when these films were released, there was a mass of knowledge and learning to be attained from these films. The stories told from these film were as educational in as well entertaining to the young minds who were watching these films. A hat has to be tipped to Frank Capra as he continued his filmmaking skills in these series as he did with his feature length films and documentries. Rhino Video released these films on VHS in the early 90's and have became instant classics in as well as collectables.